Gear Review: Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka

I tend to think of all my outdoor gear and clothing as tools in a kit.

There is not one tool perfect for all conditions, seasons, uses, styles, or person.

Some people run cold; others run hot.

An inexpensive shell excellent for on-trail conditions in the short term is not a shell I’ll use for varied conditions with scrambling or bushwhacking.

And that idea of using different clothing and gear for various outdoor activities extends to my puffies.

I’m out in all four seasons with activities for backpacking, skiing, or camping. And use clothing appropriately.

In the Intermountain West, I use a Montbell Superior Down for three-season use and a Montbell Frostline Parka for deeper winter backpacking.

But what about those in-between times? Or for cold, but not brutally cold, winter conditions? I used to wear a GoLite Bitterroot for these type of conditions found here in winter on the Colorado Plateau. Though a practical coat for the price, the thin nylon, and lots of baffles (vs. a few simple ones ala the Michelin Man) did not make it ideal for the extended wear I found myself doing on the many trips we took all winter.

The gentleman on the right is wearing what Looktastic described as a “quilted puffer hipster jacket.” No word of a lie!

When Montbell gave me a chance to test some puffies back at the start of Winter 2019/2020, I gravitated towards the Montbell Alpine Light Parka as a suitable middle-ground garment.  Not too hot, nor too cold, and ideal for a wide temperature range.

From Montbell

The 4.8 oz of 800FP down fits into a parka that weighs 14.2 oz for a Men’s Medium.  Though an ounce heavier than my old GoLite Bitterroot, the baffle style makes for a more thermally efficient piece of clothing; fewer baffles (seams) means less heat loss assuming a similar amount of down fill.

Note the chart above and see where the jackets with more seams fall on the warmth scale vs. lighter garments. Slightly heavier clothing with a somewhat thicker nylon shell gives me more versatility vs., for example, jackets best suited for thru-hiking during prime conditions only.

A hot lunch during a ski tour.

The Alpine Light Parka has sewn-through vs. baffle box construction. Always a trade-off for weight, functionality, and price. But since this attire is meant for colder, as opposed to deep winter conditions, I think all the compromises strike a balance with a piece of clothing I’ve grown to appreciate over the winter.  It is telling that not only did I stuff it in my pack during backpacking trips, but also for day ski tours, and wore it often around town during some cold snaps.

I am enjoying a hot cup of coffee during a cold morning. PCO Joan.

Though there is a women’s version of this product, it is a different product in some ways in my opinion. More baffles for less thermal efficiency if with (arguably) a more stylish cut, but also over an ounce less of down fill. In other words, if you are a woman looking for a cold-weather jacket, a smaller version of the men’s parka might work better for your needs. Joan wears a men’s version of the Alpine Light Parka to fill a similar niche to me for cold weather backpacking.

As with other Montbell clothing and gear, it might not be the least expensive piece of kit by any means. But it is well-designed, very functional, and excellent value for a higher-end piece of clothing vs. similar quality clothing from other companies.

Overall? The Montbell Alpine Light Parka is an excellent “jack-of-all-trades” parka for cold weather or three-season plus conditions.  Additionally, much like the Montbell Trekker rain jacket, if I had to own just one puffy for a quiver one, it would be this puffy as it fits such a wide range of conditions with a correct balance of weight, price, and functionality.

Disclosure: Montbell provided the Alpine Light to me for no fee. Joan uses a wide variety of Montbell clothing, including the Alpine Light, that she purchased with her funds…and before she met me in some cases! 🙂

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3 Replies to “Gear Review: Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka”

  1. Lots of pro-Montbell hype these days. Complications pile up if you are not size medium as it is very difficult to get cs to send accurate weights for other sizes. Options for test fitting limited to two Montbell stores in Metropolitan CO. Free shipping limited to 48 states only also discouraging especially when guessing whether item will fit and the item’s weight relative to options offered by competitors. Who wants to spend a career corresponding with cs and Purchasing and shipping items back if they do not fit well or weigh more than other options????Time is precious.

    1. There has been pro-Montbell hype for at least 15 years that I can recall, and for good reason. Slightly less now maybe as they have increased pricing gradually but consistently over the last four years or so. I wear a large or extra large and with these ultralight materials the weights I have received have never been much over an ounce (usually 1/2 to 3/4 ounce over the medium listing, depending on the item). Most items are only slightly more of a trim cut (in a good, functional way) than typical US sizing, so if you pay attention to their good information on the product pages and unless it specifies an Asian fit, then it’s probably going to fit just fine. I don’t think it’s any different with any other item you order and receive by mail from any other company. I don’t shop and buy as much as I did but I think Montbell may still win for value-per-ounce on many items, and they do offer a number of items that have some appreciably unique features or materials, and nearly everything has a pretty smart design element to it. They have stellar customer service, too, but they will never (thankfully) be a WalMart or an REI/Backcountry. A nice blend are the wonderful people at Enwild (fka Backcountry Edge) although they don’t cater as much to ultralight.

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